The Swartland is a part of South Africa that attracts winemakers who really do not like obeying the rules. On the contrary, they make their own, and with great success. The area is vast and seemingly inhospitable, with Piketberg its most northern extremity. It is a land that does not give of itself without expecting a lot in return.
The term quaint and pretty can never be used to describe it, but the adjective fascinating fits like a glove. After you have crossed the Berg River along the N7 you cannot miss seeing in the shadow of the imposing Piketberg mountain, vineyards that run up the foothills, painting the land vivid green in summer. Here Frank Meaker has carved a respected niche of organic and sustainable farming, eschewing invasive methods, and getting back to Mother Nature.
He says, “We started with a messed-up farm, one where horses were allowed to roam freely. Our idea was to over-deliver on quality right from the start and it took a lot of work to get it where it now is.” He believes, “It all starts in the vineyard, that is where organic is made – in the cellar we just nurture it.”
The wines he makes, especially the reds, are packed with deep, intense flavours, superb on the nose, with rich upfront fruit in spades. On top of it all, they are apparently good for your health, not that one needs an excuse to open a bottle or two.
With auspicious names like Paul Sauer (his grandfather) and the Cloetes in his family tree, it seems pre-ordained that Frank would go into winemaking right from the start. But he says, “I am very hands on – actually a farmer,” and he looks the part. It is impossible to imagine him in the boardrooms of the world, wheeling and dealing.
He is a winemaker in the original sense of the word – dedicated, passionate and focused in the extreme. He says he was influenced towards wine, “Mainly by my grandfather who took me to the farm during harvest time, so I started making my own wine at about six years old.”
After the army, he was part of the third intake into Elsenburg in 1977 and in the first group to leave there for Europe, which opened his eyes to the possibilities of great winemaking in South Africa. He has had extensive overseas experience in the US and in Europe, all of which shows in his product. He is a rock and roll fanatic, is interested in conspiracy theories, has a deeply poetic side, and loves cooking. In short, an intriguing character – like his wines, deep and fascinating – and easy to spend time with.
Org de Rac Roussanne 2017
Ripe fruit with citrus undertones, intriguing herbal and floral elements, crisp and clean. A nice change from the usual whites we drink. Perfect with roast pork and grilled fish. R86
Org de Rac Chardonnay 2015
Unwooded and perfect, overflowing with an abundance of fruit flavours on the nose and on the palate – delicious. Spicy chicken has met its match. R70
Org de Rac Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Rich and well-rounded with juicy dark-fruit flavours supported by judicious oaking and smooth tannins. Delicious with grilled red meat. R166.